Tuesday, March 1, 2016

There is no Box

Family has become such a fascinating concept. Especially at this moment in history. There are all kinds of families, no limit to who we consider our family, they are a living, breathing, ever-changing entity. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Mine is a bit complicated. It's had great-grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, sisters, spouses, children, all the usual cast of characters.

But mine has had a few more additions too. Subtractions as well. My home(s) have had walls, but also a bit of a swinging door.

My parents divorced when I was in my teens. Both remarried and were able to find the loves of their lives. It wasn't each other and that's OK. I'm just so grateful that they moved on to people who made them happy in the long run. I've had a step-father, step-mothers, step-brothers and a step-sister all come through that swinging door and into my life.

But for me that door has not just swung in, but also out.

After my parents divorced and before my dad married for life, there was a second marriage. Marla (not her real name) was young, brilliant, funny, scatter-brained, and full of life. She had a little orange 2-seater convertible and I still picture her zipping around in that thing with a big smile on her face. Marla had a little girl, Kathryn (not her real name either). Kathryn was sweet, very quiet and reserved. I lived with them over a summer and would take care of Kathryn while Dad and Marla were at work. I have fond memories of this time, even though it did end.

After the divorce I didn't have occasion to see Marla and Kathryn. There was no animosity, just everyone going their own way. I went off to college. Marla remarried, as did my dad. I ran into Marla once, many years later, at a mall. We stopped and chatted for quite a while. It was great to see her, to hear about Kathryn, to catch up.

Many, many, many years later, Kathryn and I both grown and married, we found each other on Facebook. I was so happy to see her, see pictures of her mom, her business, her husband, her life, how she had turned out. She was an outdoor girl, she'd summited Mt. Kilimanjaro! We had both moved from the East Coast to the middle of the country, one state apart. We spoke through Facebook status and also through private messages.

Until the day she disappeared. I knew her marriage was ending and I know a lot of people disappear from social media during tough times. I'd wait her out, she'd be back.

But well over a year passed and she wasn't. I thought about her, looked for her, worried about her. Her business has a website, I could have tried to contact her through it, but we were peripheral in each others lives so I didn't.

I didn't.

Regret is caustic.

The text came from my sister last week. She and Kathryn had friends in common so my sister got the news. Kathryn was gone.

I exploded in tears. So overcome I almost missed the rest of the message. Suicide.

Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255 | on www.BakingInATornado.com




Most of you know I lost my dad in December. The fallout has been enormous. There's not just the loss, there are all of those other pieces; coming to terms with the relationship, hurting for my step-mother who's alone now, so much to reconcile or to accept will never be reconciled. I could lose my mind, I really could.

In those moments when I just cannot take any more, I lovingly place that loss into a box. Not to forget it, not to refuse to deal with it, just to give myself a short break. It's self-preservation, really. I have just the box, the "generations before me" box. We lose generations before us, we don't dwell on it but we've always known it would happen. My great-grandmother, grandmothers, grandfather, step-father and now my dad. It's a well worn box. Filled with love and memories. Never completely closed because my memories often open it.

And there's the "cancer sucks" box. These days it seems we all have one. My step-brother Peter died way too young and just like any other loss, it provided me a way to deal in bits and pieces. An emotional time-out now and then.

But suicide. There is no box for this, not even an empty one. I cannot find a place to put this.

I do not know how things got that bad, I don't pretend to know Kathryn's demons. I do know that she had passions: the outdoors, her dogs, her business and volunteer work, hiking, biking and snowboarding. I wish they had been enough to sustain her through whatever she was going through. What little I know about suicide, it can be the result of so many things; mental illness, chemical imbalance, temporary or long term physical or emotional pain. It can seem, in moments of desperation, like the only escape from overwhelming despair. Suicide is an act of finality, a desolate act.

It is that desolation, the fact that someone I still picture as the little girl in pig-tails waving to the camera at the end of that long driveway was hurting to that degree, that is haunting me.

And even more than that, I am heartbroken for Marla. I mourn Kathryn's loss as a person, a former step-sister, someone who had meandered in and out of my life. All nothing compared to what I imagine Marla must feel. Every time I shut my eyes, every time I turn my head, every time I take a breath in, let one out, I put myself in Marla's place. I keep frantically trying to jerk myself away from that level of excruciation, but I can't. My eyes are swollen, my face is chapped, but I am unable to shut off this damn mom-empathy switch.

I just cannot.

So I am resigned to crafting a box, Kathryn. It is for you. It will be as beautiful as you were. I will take out the memories from time to time, this I promise. But I will also tell you now that it will be small. Because, so help me G-d, I cannot ever have to put another soul into the suicide box. Ever.

I am so sorry.

Baking In A Tornado signature | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics
PS: If you are considering suicide, please reach out. There are people who love you, places where they know how to help you. You are not alone.

    If someone you know may be contemplating suicide, please reach out. You may not be able to impact the situation but try. After all, we are not responsible for the actions of others, but we are responsible for our own.

54 comments:

  1. Karen, sitting here in tears trying to come up with the words..there are none. I can say I understand. My first dealings with suicide were in high school. A dear friends dad did this act. No one understood and it took years for the pieces to fall into place. Several years ago my uncle decided he had lived long enough, he was sick, broke and refused to go on. The list is long...way too long. Thankfully my name is not in the list, however, it almost was, more than once. It is hard to explain and I'm not sure I can, but there were dark days, days of despair, days that I just can't explain, but I am thankful that I am here. I am so sorry for your loss and there are no words. You work through it as you can and what a beautiful way you've chosen by sharing with us and building her a box. BIG hugs, lots of love and tons of prayers for you, her mom and the family/friends left behind struggling.

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    1. I'm so sorry you went to that place, Dawn, and I'm so glad you made it back.

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  2. Oh, Karen. I'm so sorry for your loss. My prayers are with you, as well as Marla and Kathryn's families. This is a great tribute to someone who meant a lot to you.

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    1. Thank you, Rabia. My thoughts are with Marla too.

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  3. Karen - I am so sorry. I really don't have other words. Prayers for you, Kathryn's family, Marla, and all others who have contemplated suicide, have been lost to suicide or who have lost a loved one because of it. <3

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    1. All prayers are with Marla right now. I just cannot deal with how much pain she has to be in.

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  4. Karen, this piece touched me as rarely as a post can touch anyone. Death always leaves a hole but suicide seems to leave one that continually creeps up with so many questions and often a lot of guilt. I am sure that many who read this will feel each emotion you portrayed and hopefully, will cause each one of us to realize deeply that we need to make ourselves aware of those who are silently suffering around us. Thank you for sharing from your heart. This is a post to be shared in every venue

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    1. Yes, Carol, suicide leaves a long ugly trail behind it. Thank you for your thoughts.

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  5. My heart is aching for you and your stepmother.
    I have no words.
    Just know that I am here if you need an ear. I am sending love and hugs.

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    1. Thank you, Stacy. Your unwavering support is heartwarming.

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  6. Dear Karen,
    I am so sorry for your loss. We have been touched by death and death by suicide in our family. There are no words, keeping you close in thought and prayer today.

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    1. Thank you, Terri. Please keep Kathryn and Marla in your thoughts and prayers.

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  7. I am so sorry, Karen! Growing up together for a while, losing touch, reconnecting and then THIS :-(

    Halfway through this post I said to myself "she needs a CAN'T UNDERSTAND BOX". Unfortunately I have one containing half a dozen people, not close friends, but close enough to feel affected. One of them found out he had incurable cancer when he was in his mid 40s and decided to go on his own terms before it got worse. He made it look like an accident. We may never know what goes on in people's minds and hearts.

    I'm sending you a big hug and positive vibes all across the ocean ♥

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    1. You're right Tamara, on two counts: "Can't Understand" is the perfect name for the box I did not have, and there are people with whom we are not close yet whose death affect us.

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  8. So beautifully written, Karen. Previous comments say what I'm thinking. I only have hugs to send your way and wishes that you will heal from this anguish soon.

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    1. Thank you. Appreciate your love and support.

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  9. I have walked that road a long time ago. It is a lonely road and one even the depressed cannot understand completely. Those of us, the survivors, understanding may never come, but realize not understanding is okay. Suicide is ultimately a selfish act. It may sound crass, but it is true.

    My heart breaks for your extended family and for you as you struggle with this. Know that I am here to listen whenever you need it.

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  10. Oh Karen. I am so very sorry for your lost. I lost one of my very best friends to suicide in Oct of 2013 and it is something that I am still trying to deal with. There are no answers with suicide only many, many questions. I know I haven't been around much and I'm sorry for that, but I'm always here for you if you would like to talk.

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    1. I know you are, Rena, and I do appreciate it.

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  11. Wow! This must have taken a lot out of you! I imagine it was also... Healing in a way! Grief, that grief is unimaginable, the search for answers sadly, never ends. It breaks my heart to think of people in those final moments when all seemed lost.. Hang on, reach out I want to scream but.. All we can do is educate, reach out, be there for each other and sometimes.... Sometimes even that can't stop someone's hurt! Bless you my brave eloquent friend, you honor your sisters memory well! Big hug....

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    1. Yes, this one was hard to write, and yet I really needed to start getting it out. Thank you for your kind words, Anja.

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  12. Thankful that you were willing to share. Death is always stunning, no matter how much warning you get, but when it ends like this, you feel numb. I love your box idea, and I too hope you never need it again.

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    1. Yes, numb, that's a good way to describe it.

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  13. I was preparing posts for A to Z. Sunday, helping my mother in law put up framed photos, she was going to throw one out. But she decided to take it out of the frame - there, between the photo and the backing, was a a photo of a young man in an Army uniform. On the back was a Valentine's greeting and a hope that they could be together the following year. I didn't recognize the name but my mother in law did. She mentioned who it was (I knew him by another name) and then I knew how his story ended. He married the girl in the photo (my mother's sister in law). They had a long marriage, ended by his suicide. I saw some of the ripples from that act and how it affected others in my mother in law's family. His widow. His developmentally disabled son. I don't have much to say except I hope your pain diminishes with time.

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    1. Far too many people think this is their only option. I knew this in my head. Now I know it in my heart.

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  14. Karen,

    I am so very sorry for your loss. My heart breaks for all that you have been dealing with. Kathryn's loss is do challenging because it is just too hard to understand the depth of that pain. Your idea of a VERY small beautiful box for Kathryn is a wonderful one. I pray it gives you the healing you need and deserve.

    xoxo

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    1. Thanks, Betsy, I hope and pray to never have to deal with this again. I wish no one had to.

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  15. I am so so sorry.

    That box. It's a terribly scary box. I hope yours remains small. Sending love your way.

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    1. I hope so too. Suicide is just such a brutal blow.

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  16. Very eloquent Karen. I am so sorry for your loss. I have known several that chose to end their life. It is not easily understood by those left behind. I do know that depression is a serious thing and that withdrawing from life is what many choose to do, rather than burden others with their sadness. It is so kind of you to let us listen and give you comfort. Consider this a giant hug.

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    1. No, it's not easy to understand. I keep trying, and I keep telling myself to stop trying.

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  17. I am so sorry for your loss and for her Mother and family. Suicide is very difficult to comprehend to survivors. It is so sad that she couldn't find her way out.

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    1. I know. How I wish she had been able to find her way out. I guess I'll be wishing that forever.

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  18. I am sorry that you had another loss in your life. Life can be so hard at timea. Take care Karen, I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

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  19. The closest I've ever been to suicide was when a client opened up to me about 2 of her 3 sons ending their lives. Holding back the tears, she shook her head and said "I wasn't there, I should have known."
    Her words haunt me, even now. Detached from the situation, it's easy to see that no one could have known but as a mother I can see why she will always live with that guilt.

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    1. Yes, I agree. It's not her fault but I can also understand how very much she has to wish that she had known and could have done something.

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  20. I'm sorry, I couldn't read past you losing your dad - there's too much water in my eyes. This hits close to home for me as I lost both my dad & brother to suicide (I know you know). You're absolutely right. There is not box to put this in. The hole is enormous and never ever closes or heals. For whatever I missed toward the end of your post, I'm sorry. I think you understand, or hope. Big hugs to you - and "welcome" to the club no one really wants to be a member of. Hugs to you. Thank you for sharing this. I hope it helps someone who's suffering to think again. <3

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    1. I do know about the holes in your heart, Jenn and I'm so sorry if I opened up those old wounds for you.

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  21. Oh my dear Karen, unfortunately this is one more thing we have in common. It's been 18 years since she committed suicide, but I miss my sister every day.

    Hugs, hugs, and more hugs.

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    1. I'm so sorry, Cathy. I hate that we've both been sucker-punched by this one.

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  22. I'm truly sorry for your loss.

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  23. So, so sorry. I happen to have my own suicide box where I keep memories of my first husband. It's painful to open but to keep it closed isn't an option. <3 Much love to you and "Marla"!

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    1. I'm so sorry for your loss as well, and for the ongoing pain.

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  24. Oh Karen you poor woman. When is enough going to be enough for you? It gets easier, I promise. One of my big brothers committed suicide 8 years ago now, and I didn't really know him anymore when he died either. I watched my dad and his ex wife go through the loss, and that was more heartbreaking than anything I was feeling at the time. But I promise you the ache will grow less and less as time goes by. I know how you must feel right now, but you will be ok. I'm always here for you if you need. xxx

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    1. Sounds very much like the same situation. Thank you so much for reaching out, Erin. It must be a hard memory to share. XO

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  25. One of the best books I've read this year "All The Bright Places" by Jennifer Niven tackles this subject. It's so heartbreaking. You really did a beautiful job putting your thoughts and feelings out there in a sensitive and meaningful way. I've been thinking about Marla so much, praying for her, since reading this. My heart goes out to her and everyone involved or touched by this in some way.

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    1. Thank you, Shannon. I need to check out that book.

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  26. Very well-written, Karen. You have put this sensitive matter in such a beautiful way. I am sorry for your loss. Wish we can save as many lives as possible.
    Great writing Dear with a Great Message.

    Epsita
    www.thepositivewindow.com

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    1. Thank you for reading, and for your kind words.

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